The State of Rhode Island is receiving weekly, de-identified prescribing data from pharmacies across the state enabling epidemiologists to track cases of H1N1 influenza.

The data comes from national electronic prescribing network vendor Surescripts, which recently completed connecting to every pharmacy in the state. Epidemiologists are using the data to identify where there are spikes in prescriptions of Tamiflu and other antiviral medications.

Health officials can use the data to detect potential outbreaks by location and age group. Using statewide prescription data gives a far more granular view than the state's existing "Sentinel" system of 25 physician practices across the state reporting flu outbreaks. Discrepancies between outbreaks reported by the Sentinel system and prescription data also can shed light on such issues as prescribing in the absence of flu, drug supplies running low or additional outbreak areas not identified by Sentinel.

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